Clothing and Nakedness
.....two groups of strange individuals emerged into the
light of the lamps. They walked in squads, in rows of three,
with an odd, embarrassed step, head dangling in front, arms rigid.
On their heads, they wore comic berets and were all dressed in
long striped overcoats, which even by night and from a distance
looked filthy and in rags. They walked in a large circle around us,
never drawing near, and in silence began to busy themselves with
our luggage and to climb in and out of the empty wagons.
We looked at each other without a word. It was all incomprehensible and mad,
but one thing we had understood. This was the metamorphosis that awaited us.
Tomorrow we would be like them.
Levi, Survival, p. 20.
One entered the Lager naked....the day in the Lager was studded
with innumerable harsh strippings--checking for lice, searching one's
clothes, examining for scabies and then the morning wash-up--
as well as for the periodic selections, during which a "commission"
decided who was still fit for work, and who, on the contrary,
was marked for elimination. Now, a naked and barefoot man feels that
all his nerves and tendons are severed: he is helpless prey. Clothes,
even the foul clothes distributed, even the crude clogs with their
wooden soles, are a tenuous but indispensable defense. Anyone who
does not have them no longer percieves himself as a human being but
rather as a worm: naked, slow, ignoble, prone on the ground. He
knows that he can be crushed at any moment.
Levi, Drowned, pp. 113-114.
An artist who was enlisted to prepare medical drawings for a
Nazi doctor was saved by him when the rest of the Czech-Jewish
family camp was selected for the gas chambers:
[W]hen the prisoners were forced to march naked
before the SS doctors, much to Eva C.'s humiliation (all the
more so because she knew them): "I [could] catch a glimpse of
[Konig's] eyes looking straight in my eyes and no place else,
and I was very grateful for that." She sensed that he was reassuring her
"that things would be all right, that he was a friend":"I felt he cared."
Lifton, p. 233.
Inmate Olga Lengyel:
I badly needed a waistband to hold up my drawers...At the
garbage dump, by a wonderful stroke of luck, I found three fragments
of twine which could be pieced together for the purpose...I felt
that I had become a rich woman in the camp.
Friedrich, p. 43.